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Smart Tass by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 19th April 2017
Smart Tass by Mimi Jean PamfiloffSmart Tass by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Series: OHellNo #1
on April 11th 2017
Pages: 157
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three-stars

He’s the hot quarterback all the girls want. She’s the smart girl he loves to pick on.And now that they’re all grown up, things are about to get geekin’ ugly…
My name is Tass. I’m smart, I’m driven, and I am determined not to let prankster Hunter Johnson continue raining on my parade. When we were little, he’d pull my hair and call me names. When we were teenagers, he’d throw food and tease me for being a flat-chested virgin.
But now that we’ve ended up at the same college, he’s out of his hot head if he thinks he can keep messing with my life. It’s like he’s fixated on me or something. Well, guess what, Mr. Amazefootball? I’m not that geeky little girl anymore and you do not screw with a smart woman.
So what’s my plan?
It’s definitely wild, and he’s about to find out…

I’d initially assumed that ‘Smart Tass’ was in fact, a good ol’ enemies-to-lovers thing in college, between two people who’d known each other the whole time but hadn’t gotten along. But it’s so much more than that.

Written wholly in Tass’s POV though, I went from hating Hunter to warming to him, just as she did. Objectively speaking, there is really something quite smart about the way the narrative is set up that got me going. There’s the power of the unreliable narrator here (even though I loved the smart-ass, cocky, biased and very distinctive nerdy but alpha girl voice of Tass), given the very skewed perspective that makes us see what we’re supposed to see and assume before it gets turned on its head and the age-old lesson of not believing everything as it looks.

I wasn’t comfortable about how much of commodification of Tass’s virginity there was by the frat boys, yet it’s also waved proudly about like it’s nothing to be ashamed of from Tass’s side, which was quite a contradiction for me. Yet that was part of the conflict that I could sniff a mile away, which was resolved in a mere few pages at the end which stuttered to a stop in the form of a cliffhanger. I guess I wanted to see more than just a kiss-and-make-up scene or at least some more of a resolute ending before the next book kicks in…after all, there was barely enough of Tass and Hunter on good terms, as much as the antagonism was fun. It was over before I knew it and without an epilogue or anything, ‘Smart Tass’ felt more incomplete than it was a standalone.

three-stars

All You Need by Lorelei James

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 5th April 2017
All You Need by Lorelei JamesAll You Need by Lorelei James
Series: Need You #3
Published by Berkley Books on April 4th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

PR agent Annika Lund can spin any disaster into a win. But revamping the reputation of a notorious Swedish hockey player will take every trick in her arsenal, especially when his agent insists that convincing everyone he’s no longer a playboy is top priority. And that it requires a sham relationship—with Annika playing the part of loving girlfriend.
On fire in the rink and in the bedroom, Axl Hammerquist couldn’t care less about being anyone’s golden boy. So when his agent forces him to play nice with a new publicist, he takes satisfaction in being as much of a pain as possible. But the more time he spends getting to know Annika, the more Axl starts to think that being Mr. Nice Guy might be worth it if it gets him the girl...

This started off well enough, judging from the blurb that made me want to dive in straight away. I took a chance on the humour that other reviews said the book was filled with—often laughter does overcome many narrative problems in my opinion—and thought it might be a sparkling example of an antagonistic relationship between a PR guru and a Swedish manwhore hockey player. Cue the puns and snark, throw in the prerequisite love/hate line and you’ve baited me. But it’ll take more than that though, for my attention not to wander when what follows thereafter goes somewhat awry with the sheer amount of details thrown in. Add the sudden influx of huge numbers of characters suddenly gracing the book and an elaborate scheme that involves some kind of family manipulation and I could barely keep up.

A lot of it the story is dialogue-driven, as we navigate the WAG scene and get around the politics of hockey while Annika and Axl slowly strip back the layers and get to know each other. This process however, involved conversations going off on tangents even though I knew they were meant to be ‘getting to know you better’ sessions and numerous instances of name-dropping particularly when the entire Lund family came into play so it really didn’t take too long before I felt very much like an outsider eavesdropping on every scene.

I couldn’t quite muster up enough interest in the way hockey was portrayed here, let alone the couple in question except for the way Annika/Axl danced around their attraction. But if their hostile, sparking first few interactions heated up my screen, it soon mellowed and faded into a smoother, more staid and ‘softer’ side of romantic attraction that diminished my pull to the both of them—because they suddenly began lacking that tension and chemistry that drew me initially to them.

Their path to a ‘proper’ relationship is simply sort of straightened out the moment they gave into their attraction, the predictability of the trope—Axl is suddenly now a reformed manwhore who finally understands why men stay monogamous while Annika finally sees the ’softer’ side of him—made me eventually lose interest. So all it really takes, as the story seemed to say, is the right woman (with some measure of determination, confidence yet can melt like butter when a man touches her) to set the womanising jock straight, despite what the media might make of them.

My inability to really cut my teeth in made the book difficult to continue but it’s clearly something that’s just me, judging from the other glowing reviews the book has gotten. Still, I skimmed and felt relieved when I got to the end.

two-stars

Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 3rd April 2017
Pipe Dreams by Sarina BowenPipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #3
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
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four-stars

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.
Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.
Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.
One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.

A stiff, distant crusty crone was how I thought of Lauren Williams in Sarina Bowen’s rather outstanding hockey series, but ‘Pipe Dreams’ has made me think differently about her. Once I got to know her story, it felt as though she was entitled to her bitterness and the hanging dark cloud that followed her wherever she went. Mike Beacon, the goalie who shattered it all 2 years ago though, only learns the extent to which he’d hurt her when she returns to help the owner of the team, then goes all out to win her back. With a competitive spirit working overtime as he juggles the playoffs, success is his only option, though there’re still a few obstacles in the way of their HEA.

I read ‘Pipe Dreams’ once, then read through it again, unable to get enough of Mike’s and Lauren’s story. It’s a second-chance romance trope, and Bowen certainly crafts the story in a way that casts both characters in a very sympathetic light, explaining the circumstances that separated both Mike and Lauren in a manner that made it difficult to side with either one of them. As with most Sarina Bowen books, every time I think I’ve got the plot and conflict figured out, I always get surprised—and pleasantly so. Mike/Lauren do behave like the adults they are, navigating past hurts with the kind of realism I expected, but above all, their story was solidly integrated into the inner workings of the team’s activities and business that made ‘Pipe Dreams’ feel like a complete story with no unfinished business. (except perhaps, for the constant teases of Nate/Becca that don’t seem to be in any sequel anywhere)

I did get lost in the details of the hockey itself but the Brooklyn Bruisers series is nevertheless one of a kind—and this is coming from someone who lives in an area where hockey is barely given a blink. It was gratifying to dive into this book, knowing that in this series, Bowen doesn’t make out the entire team of hockey players to be foaming-in-the-mouth, rabid men with testosterone levels so high that they need constant sex with any woman they can hook up with but as individual characters, distinct personalities that could on their own, actually get their own story.

My only hope? That she’ll continue this series for many books to come.

four-stars

The Boxer by Piper Rayne

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 7th March 2017
The Boxer by Piper RayneThe Boxer by Piper Rayne
Series: Modern Love #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on March 1st 2017
Pages: 199
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three-stars

What does a girl do after she discovers her fiancé is a cheating bastard?

In my case, I performed the ritual implosion of all scorned women. I drowned my sorrows in cases of white wine, wallowed in gallons of ice cream, and ignited a bonfire to burn away every damn remnant of his existence. Six months later, the only result was a permanent impression of my ass on the couch.

Adventure Dating my friends dared.
A new and exciting opportunity they said.

I thought they were crazy, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I signed up for the entire four-week deal.
That’s where I saw HIM. Lucas Cummings. He isn’t the classic rich boy I usually end up with. The one whose idea of working up a sweat is waiting for his margarita to be served beachside. Nope. He’s a rough and tough bad boy that all fathers warn their daughters about. You know the type. Cocky swagger, chiseled jaw—the ‘V’.

SOLD, I said to myself, until I discovered he was so much more than just a BOXER.

Left Hook.
Right to the heart.

Prim girl meets supposed bad boy at a boxing ring, bets on him inadvertently and get her knickers wet, but one embarrassment after another follows and the promise of a sultry night to come screeches prematurely to a halt. Well, there’s a little more than that of course, as ‘class conflict’ and shades of infidelity and deception are written into the plot…and who the rough-and-tumble boxer really is, isn’t quite who we can expect.

I’m not entirely too sure how to rate my first ever read by Piper Rayne, to be honest. As a story written solely in Tahlia’s POV, I felt as though this became a case of a completely unveiled heroine – we know her flaws, her insecurities and her hopes – but almost nothing about Lucas Cummings, except for the bare facts that he lets her know about him, as revealed to us by the authors. That Lucas remains tight-lipped about what he does and who he really is didn’t make him a character that I could understand, let alone connect with. Eventually, it all comes to a head, forming the bulk of the conflict, yet I couldn’t shrug away the dissatisfied feel when Lucas seemed to stay an enigma who was content to dole out only the pieces of himself that he wanted people to know.

I personally prefer both the H/hr to be stripped bare – not just physically and not only at the end of the book – so this was a story that left me somewhat frustrated and sitting on the fence. With their emotional connection and compatibility overshadowed by their physical chemistry (this is way too common these days), I turned the last page actually wondering whether Lucas/Tahlia would actually be a couple who could even last beyond the HFN that Rayne gives us.

three-stars

Down and Dirty by Tracy Wolff

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Sports 5th March 2017
Down and Dirty by Tracy WolffDown & Dirty by Tracy Wolff
Published by Loveswept on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 210
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two-stars

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

Tracy Wolff certainly has a way of writing steamy scene after steamy scene, though quite a bit of the book reads like a porn movie set, where characters meet perfunctorily and get hit hard by lust. Resistance (there’s a little of it), of course, is futile when constant penile erections and hardened nipples and wet slits suddenly take over.

The physical aspect of ‘Down and Dirty’ was never in doubt when Hunter zeroed straight in—from the very first meeting—like a panting dog in heat on Emerson, as I wondered if this book could better be classified as erotica than contemporary chick-lit. But I lost count of the number of ways he imagined her in all the sex positions, her lips doing dirty things to him and so on, up until the point where I finally decided that Hunter was a bad bet all around, led around mostly by his dick (and posturing a lot with it too), with copious amounts of dirty descriptions dedicated to how much he liked Emerson’s sexy body. And because Emerson is more special than his numerous one-night hookups, he has to relearn how to ‘woo’ a woman, which in his book, means loading her with lavish gifts that his wealth affords him.

Apart from Hunter’s concern for his ailing sister, I was inclined to think he was generally a classless act with mood swings and obscene excess (as is typically written of the lifestyle of the superrich), crude but bland, yet cockily arrogant with very little character depth. His rationale for only having hookups was that his mind was already full with his family problems, yet there was no issue diving into this routine with Emerson when it suited him. When things took a turn for the worse, he pushed her away in the nastiest way possible, unable to deal with the overwhelming emotions—all typical alpha male behaviour that still surprises me with its stupidity at times.

And while Wolff certainly portrays the grieving process well, I couldn’t get over his callous treatment of Emerson, almost as though grief gave him license to be an idiot around others. I didn’t think very much of Hunter at all at the end as a result, especially since it felt as though he merely used Emerson as a bandage slapped over wounds, or that he was with her in a bid to keep a part of his life from spinning out of control.

Emerson fared somewhat better in my opinion, standing her ground against him, though you do know her issues will crumble under Hunter’s oh-so-experienced, superior touch. From there (and it’s just a week!), the falling in love bit came easily…perhaps too easily for me. She’s nevertheless, somewhat more multifaceted, with deeper perspectives and an more unshakeable sense of compassion than Hunter’s tunnel vision on women, football and his sister, which made me wonder just how much he really deserved her.

I tried to enjoy this, I really did. I did like how the introduction of an dying sibling gave the story more gravitas than a contemporary romance would have, though I’m not quite convinced yet that it’d helped shaped the pairing out to be a more solid and believable one that successfully weathered a storm together, because they didn’t quite do so. So unfortunately it didn’t quite work for me as I prefer my stories with a bit more narrative and character depth. But if getting hot and bothered is your primary goal, then ‘Down and Dirty’ would be it.

two-stars

Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 1st March 2017
Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance AnthologyHot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology by Avery Flynn, Robin Covington, Kimberly Kincaid, Nana Malone, Virginia Nelson, Xio Axelrod, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Kim Golden, Lena Hart, Desiree Holt, Robin Kaye, Katie Kenyhercz, Heather Long, Kate Meader, Angi Morgan, Susan Scott Shelley, Misty D. Waters
Series: Chicago Rebels #0.5
Published by Avery Flynn on March 21st 2017
Pages: 1800
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three-stars

Get ready to fall in love with the smokin’ hot hockey players of the New Orleans Cajun Rage. After this season’s Cinderella run all the way to the Finals, these heroes have won the Cup—and now your heart is the goal.

‘Hot on Ice’ follows every single team member of the fictional New Orleans Cajun Rage after they’ve won the coveted cup and how the cup, like some magical catalyst, helps bring them get to their HEA that some feel (rightly so, to be honest) they don’t deserve. By the end of the book, I found it somewhat amusing that entire hockey team has found love, as though the cup has helped guaranteed success in their love lives as well.

Like every anthology, the quality of writing varies quite significantly and it can be quite an experience sorting through all of them, like finding gems in a huge haystack. There were some stories that I enjoyed (and found believable) more than others because of the stylish and more sophisticated way of writing, as well as how well some authors handled the typical romance tropes in them. Some others, well…I did find them cringeworthy.

The ARC I received felt like it was in its ‘developmental’ stage though; the formatting didn’t always work in my laptop or my e-reader (I don’t use a Kindle, maybe that’s why) for several chapters and there is still some editing work (grammar/spelling, for instance) that needs to be done to make the final version a more polished one.

*ARC kindly given by the authors
(always grateful, mind)

three-stars

The Cad and the Co-ed by L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 16th February 2017
The Cad and the Co-ed by L.H. Cosway and Penny ReidThe Cad and the Co-Ed by L.H. Cosway, Penny Reid
Series: Rugby #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services on February 12th 2017
Pages: 337
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five-stars

THE CADBryan Leech is a cad. Or, he *was* a cad.No one is quite certain.Once the quintessential playboy, Bryan claims he’s done with wild parties and weekend benders. No more one night stands leading to mornings he can’t remember; no more binges and blackouts; no more exploits plastered all over the tabloids and rag sheets. According to Bryan, he’s cleaning up his act.The only problem is, no one believes him.

THE CO-EDEilish Cassidy never thought she’d be a mother at nineteen or still in college at twenty-four. Cut off from every member of her family except her favorite cousin, she’s finally managed to put her life back together. Stronger and wiser, Eilish enters her last semester of university determined to stand on her own. Now she just needs to find an internship.The only problem is, her best option—by far—places her directly in the path of her son’s father, and he doesn’t remember her at all.

THE PLANBryan is determined to prove he’s changed. Eager to settle down with the right woman, he’s got his sights set on the gorgeous redhead who seems terribly familiar.Eilish is determined to hide her secret. She’ll do anything to keep her child safe, even if that means ignoring her own wishes and desires.But what happens when Bryan starts to remember? And what will it take for Bryan to convince the girl he forgot that she’s unforgettable?

A one-night stand goes awry as the cad takes it up with the co-ed and forgets it soon after, thanks to the constant drunkenness that pretty much blots out his short-term memory for eternity. Five years later, the cad has become the old codger who rails at loud parties disturbing his rest (complete with the housecoat, reading glasses, a mug of mint tea and a book about birds in Britain and Europe) and is so desperately reformed that I couldn’t help but find the whole turnover hilarious.

“The Cad and the Co-Ed” is as endearing as the preceding book and a pretty much angst-free read to boot, only that it takes place quite some time in the future after Sean’s story. The characters are likeable and so real as they pretty much act like the adults I expected them to be; I loved Eilish from the start and the honesty and maturity that she shows throughout the book by not shying away from the difficult decisions, just as I found Bryan’s entire personality change, well, rather amusing in some parts and touching in others.

Yet there’re also some solemn insights into alcoholism, slack parenting and emotionally manipulative relatives just as the authors seem to show, rather adamantly, that navigating this minefield would be enough conflict on its own without the false need to create any more storms in a teacup for the pairing in question. And *that* is something I can definitely appreciate.

If there’s a reason to single out this series for, it would probably be the unexpected slaps of humour and sass accompanied by the stinging realness of emotion that come my way each time I read about the antics that the characters get up to – testament to the stylish and polished writing of the dynamic duo of L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid.

five-stars
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